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Home » Breaking News » Living in the community of art in Ennistymon
Roisin McGuane with her artwork 'I must apologize' on display at the Croí-art exhibition held in The Courthouse Gallery & Studios, Ennistymon

Living in the community of art in Ennistymon

Over the past six months, a diverse group of people have been coming together each week at Crosby’s old shop at The Square in Ennistymon. There, in the beating heart of the old town, the Croí Art group have been working quietly together to create something special, a community of art.
The 20 strong group, ranging in age from 16 to 68 years, have developed into something approaching a family. Coming from different backgrounds, and with diverse and sometimes contrary experiences of the world, the group have found common cause together and the ability to derive strength from each other.
The fruits of their work will be on show in the Croí Art Exhibition, which continues in The Courthouse Gallery in Ennistymon until March 23.
According to tutor Meave Collins, the group have really come together this year.
“It really makes this course special to have a community of different ages and different cultures. Our youngest learner this year was 16 years old, and last year our oldest was Vincent Wall, who graduated at age 90,” she said.
“It is so lovely to have all the generations together. Different people bring different things into the group. Older people are bringing their experiences, maybe from work or their lived experience out in the world, and the wisdom of their age.
“The younger learners are bringing the energy, their enthusiasm, their drive to put together a portfolio and go to college.
“For others it is more about them deepening their own understanding of themselves and to give time to their own creativity and allow that to develop.
“That whole mixture of people working together and being together creates a community. It is a real community.
“We are learning how to work together and cooperate together. We are learning how to give and take, how to trust each other and how to support and elevate each other.
“We are all learning from each other. All of the students here are helping to teach the others. We can all learn from each other.”
For Meave, the group is about much more than art, it is about creating a welcoming space for people to come and create together.
“It is about an aliveness, a thirst for knowledge, a love of colour and vibrancy, diversity. We are all curious people. I think we all keep each other fresh. That is important,” she said.
“I think all the other things just drop away. The age differences, the cultural differences, that all drops away and we find different places and ways to meet each other. It is great that we can do that, to be a place of commonality and hope in the world today.”
One of those people who found a home at Crosby’s this year is 68 year old Christine Jenkins from Liscannor.
For Christine, the diversity of the people she met as part of the course was key to her enjoyment of the experience.
“I learned very early in life that I was not very good at art and at creative things, so it has been a lifetime of unlearning that for me.
“When I was at school, there were kids who were good at art and others who weren’t, and I was one of the ones who wasn’t,” she said.
“I had heard of this course over the years, I was interested but too scared. So last year I took my courage into my hands, I signed up for it and it has been just brilliant. It’s not like a taught class, that would have terrified me, it is really about tapping into your interests and helping you to bring that out. It has been brilliant.
“The mixture of people is amazing. Everyone here has their own different interests and strengths. I love being with younger people, with people of all ages. We support each other, we help each other and we draw on each other’s energies and experience.
“I love learning about what other people are doing and what approach they are taking. We are all experimenting together to find out what works. There is a great group energy to it.”
One of this year’s youngest participants is 17-year-old Muireann B Sheedy. The Ennistymon native has enjoyed sharing her time with other artists and is hoping to use her experience this year to help with her future career in psychology and art therapy.
“I have always liked art and doing things with my hands. I was looking for a course in psychology at first and then I saw this art course. I’d like to use the art and the psychology together, maybe in art therapy,” she said.
“I picked stories as my research subject [for the exhibition]. I am quite interested in books and I am also interested in mythology as well, so researching stories was a great way to get into all of that. I made some paintings, which were like stories at a campfire, and another piece which was stories exploding out of a book. I also made a play tower and things like that for the exhibition.
“It was great to be surrounded by so many different people, it was very motivating.”
Retired teacher at St Flannan’s Secondary School in Ennis, Catherine McCurtin, says being part of the Croí Art Exhibition has given her direction in her artistic practice.
“I’ve always loved art, but like most people, life intervened. At a certain stage you either decide that you are going to go down the art route or you are going to go in another direction. But you never really loose the feeling for art. When I retired from teaching I had time to dive in. We range in ages from 16 years old to people in their 60s. It is a lovely mix,” she said.
“Over the years I’ve done a course here and there. So you might dip into watercolour for a little while and then a bit of acrylic, you’d do a bit of everything. So I’ve been working away and sketching over the years, but there was never a sense of direction to it. It was always more of a hobby that I enjoy and that was wonderful.
“The approach that Maeve takes is brilliant. She invites us learners to work on the presentation ourselves, so we are the curators of the exhibition. That way we see how it is done, we learn how to arrange paintings and how not to do it, what looks good beside something else. There is a lot to learn in that too.
“It is terrific to imagine something that you have made yourself hanging on a wall as part of an exhibition. It is a lovely feeling, it is really nice.”
Even though the people involved in this year’s exhibition come from a variety of different backgrounds, Catherine says that very early on, the differences between them all faded away, and they became a true family in art.
“There is a spread of different people but you are not conscious of it. We have everyone there from people who want to start [art] college next year, to people who understand their art on a deeper level to people who are doing lots of different things,” she said. “But after a while that doesn’t matter. You are just a person, in a work space, working on your art. It is great.”

Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

About Andrew Hamilton

Andrew Hamilton is a journalist, writer and podcaster based in the west of Ireland.

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